Man hit with felony charges for handing out jury nullification fliers
Keith Wood, 39, faces a felony charge for obstruction of justice and a misdemeanor for attempting to influence jurors. Wood said he was handing out pamphlets from the Fully Informed Jury Association on November 24, while standing on a sidewalk in front of a Mecosta County courthouse.
Obstruction of justice is carries a penalty of five years in prison with up to $10,000 in fines, and attempting to influence jurors is a one-year misdemeanor with fines of up to $1,000.
Wood’s attorney Dave Kallman told WXMI that the charges were “outrageous,” and that his client had been locked up with a $150,000 bond. Wood was in jail for about 12 hours before he paid 10 percent of the bond using a credit card.
“When [the judge] told me the bond, again I was speechless," Wood told WXMI. “$150,000 bond for handing out a piece of paper on a public sidewalk? Speechless.”
Wood, a former pastor, said that he was moved to action when he read online about jury nullification. A concept derived from medieval English common law, it allows jurors to acquit defendants who they think are victims of an unjust law, even if the evidence shows that the law was actually violated.
“I'm a disciple of Jesus Christ," Wood told MLive. "Jesus said 'the truth will set you free' and I want people to know the truth.”
The pamphlets are titled, “What rights do you have as a juror that the judge won't tell you about?” Wood says it is not illegal to inform jurors of their powers to nullify laws, but that judges “just don’t do it any more.”
When he was handing out the fliers, Wood said that a woman came out of the courthouse and asked him to come inside and talk to a judge. Wood refused, and then a deputy came outside and told him that if he did not talk to the judge, Big Rapids police would come and arrest him.
Under the threat of arrest, Wood went inside the courthouse, and was told that he was not being detained. Once inside, however, Mecosta County District Court Judge Peter Jaklevic told a deputy to place him in custody for jury tampering.
“It’s free speech for goodness sake,” said Kallman, according to WXMI. “The Judge directly ordered him to be arrested for jury tampering, for tampering with a jury that didn’t exist, now wrap your head around that.”
Wood refused to take a plea deal, and his preliminary hearing is set for Tuesday. He says that he wants the case dismissed and $15,000 repaid to his credit card company, and is deciding whether to pursue a federal lawsuit.